Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kickin’ with the Naked Mole Rats

Digging is a way of life for the Naked Mole Rats. Living almost entire lives underground, natural pathways aren’t something you come across very frequently. Armed with large constantly growing teeth and some serious determination, naked mole rats are able to dig and chew their way through almost anything.

To keep our mole rats busy in their tube system, Animal Care staff members have been giving them an extra challenge to maneuver around. Ranging from their own bedding material to their food, we’ve been trying to keep that digging instinct at work while keeping them from digging their way out!

But when digging up fresh tunnels, in dirt or Carefresh, the extra material needs a place to go. This is where “volcano-ing” comes to play. Mole rats will line up along a tube or pathway and pass dirt down the row, until it gets to the last one. The mole rat at the end, instead of kicking the bedding backward, kicks it up through a vent hole, and out into the world above. This creates volcano shaped mounds of dirt which allows people to locate naked mole rat tunnel systems for research purposes in the wild. But how do we allow the mole rats to kick out things at the Science Center but keep them in?

The answer is simple. A funnel! A hole large enough for bedding material, but too small for naked mole rats will allow for containing the animals inside but leave them free to create a huge mess for Animal Caretakers to clean up the next morning. So next time you’re at the Naked Mole Rat exhibit, keep your eyes out for digging, kicking, and the maze of tunnels that pop up in their chambers!

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference 2012

From August 1 - 5, Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore was in Tucson, Arizona to attend the 20th annual Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference at Lowes Ventana Canyon. This is a time for arthropod caretakers and educators to meet, exchange care ideas, and discuss the joys and occasional frustrations of providing glorious live insect and spider exhibits for the public.

Tucson is sunny 300 days of the year and exceptionally hot in August. But in the cool of nighttime, the insects come out to play - and so do the entomologists. Sarah attended several black lighting activities and saw giant moths, green-gold beetles, ant lions, and many other creatures that rarely fly by day.

The conference featured talks on insect rearing - such as how to build a setup to raise newly hatched tarantulas without the risk of cannibalism, and without having to store each spiderling in a separate lidded cage. Another speaker discussed the likelihood of a teacher presenting curriculum on carnivorous insects compared to plant eating ones.

Butterfly exhibit staff compared notes on what makes their butterflies happy and how this helps keep their Lepidoptera inside the exhibit instead of out damaging the environment. We learned about the fascinating and potentially devastating to insects bacteria Wolbachia. This complicated genus of bacteria can change the reproductive success of isolated insect populations. Understanding Wolbachia is critical in the success of any effort to repopulate insect

Most importantly, this was a chance for people who care about the smaller life forms to see each other, talk, and share their concerns. Humans dominate the world in technology, but insects certainly rule in numbers, diversity, and adaptation. Insects deeply impact nearly every land habitat on earth. Either as food, pollinators, aerators, predators or pruners, they shape their environment and provide necessary balance. Without bugs, whole ecosystems would not be sustainable. So this collection of geeky bug lovers is actually working to preserve all the life forms that depend on insects. And they just happen to recognize how cool those insects are.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fresh Sheet – August 25, 2012

This week’s shipment of pupae is from the Philippines where the weather closely resembles that of the Tropical Butterfly House, only wetter.

40 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
32 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
30 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
80 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
80 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
24 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
05 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
77 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
30 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
14 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
40 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)

Total = 452

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

Read more!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tide Pooling 101

Animal Caretaker Cari Garand is also an Interpretive Supervisor at the Seattle Aquarium. Recently, she became an Interpretive Diver as well. Cari’s diving experience, gained while working at the Catalina Island Marine Institute in 2003, more than qualifies her as our resident expert on tide pooling and marine life.

Cari has now added an interesting display to the Puget Sound Model exhibit area that further demonstrates her love of the water!

Anyone who knows me knows it doesn’t take much to convince me to head to the beach, rain or shine! So when our Life Sciences Manager, Sarah Moore, asked me if I wanted to create a beach themed board the answer was an astounding YES! With the board’s convenient location next to the Puget Sound Model in Building 2, it only seemed logical that the theme should highlight our local beaches and marine life.

The most difficult part of this project was picking and choosing what was most fascinating and relevant as I frantically filled pieces of scratch paper with ideas. In the end I knew I wanted to bring both locals and visitors the tools to explore the beaches throughout Puget Sound (or whatever beach is local) safely for them and the animals.

So if you have ever wondered, “What is the best time to go to the beach to see cool animals?” or “What’s the best way to interact with the animals on the beach?” or perhaps “How does an anemone reproduce?” We have the answers for you! Come and visit the new “Discover Our Local Beaches” board for an introduction to tides, Puget Sound marine life, beach etiquette, and even some ideas of how to learn more.

Happy Tide Pooling!

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fresh Sheet – August 18, 2012

This is an excellent time of year to visit our Tropical Butterfly House where the indoor temperature hovers around a cool 80 degrees!

El Salvador

08 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
17 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
15 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
10 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
15 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
20 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
15 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
15 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
60 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
15 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
20 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
25 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
09 - Parides photinus (Queen of Hearts)
10 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
20 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
25 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 334


09 - Catopsilia pyranthe (Mottled Emigrant) THAILAND
01 - Charaxes candiope (Green-veined Charaxes) KENYA
10 - Charaxes castor (Giant Charaxes) KENYA
10 - Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charaxes) KENYA
10 - Charaxes varanes (Pearl Charexes) KENYA
01 - Charaxes violetta (Violet-spotted Emperor) KENYA
07 - Chilasa clytia (Common Mime) THAILAND
10 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf) PHILIPPINES
10 - Euphaedra neophron (Gold-banded Forester) KENYA
11 - Euploea core (Common Crow) THAILAND
05 - Gonimbrasia zambesina African Emperor Moth) USA(
10 - Graphium antheus (Large Striped Swordtail) KENYA
23 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon) PHILIPPINES
10 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite) PHILIPPINES
12- Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose) PHILIPPINES
20- Papilio dardanus (Mocker Swallowtail) KENYA
10 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail) PHILIPPINES
10 - Papilio memnon (Great Memnon) THAILAND
10 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail) USA
07 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock) PHILIPPINES
30 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
10 - Parthenos sylvia lilacinus (Blue Clipper) THAILAND
10 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper) PHILIPPINES
10 - Salamis anacardii (Clouded Mother Of Pearl) KENYA
10 - Tirumala septentrionus (Dark Blue Tiger) MALAYSIA
15 - Troides rhadamantus plateni (Platen’s Birdwing) PHILIPPINES
10 - Vindula dejone (The Cruiser) MALAYSIA

TOTAL = 294

Grand Total = 628

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

Read more!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Paola’s Visit

A special guest visited Pacific Science Center recently, prior to this year’s annual Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference. While she was in Seattle, Paola Vargas, Export Manager of Costa Rica Entomological Supply (CRES) entertained our staff with an informal lunch-hour discussion on the butterfly pupae exporting business.

First, Paola gave us a little background:

In 1984, Joris Brinckerhoff, a former Peace Corps volunteer, and his wife, Maria Sabido founded CRES (Costa Rica Entomological Supply) just as Costa Rica was looking to diversify its economy. At the same time, Great Britain was beginning to create butterfly exhibits. They were a ready market for this enthusiastic entrepreneur. Today CRES sends pupae to countries all over the world including New Zealand, Germany, France, Mexico, and the United States.

Inspired by E.F. Schumacher’s book and seminal work, “Small is Beautiful,” CRES has created a socially inclusive business model. Paola told us that the CRES network of 153 breeder/farmers are not considered vendors but colleagues. The farmers have to control all stages of butterfly development. “The relationship between the breeders and the exporter is like a family where we take care of each other,” Paola told us.

Butterfly farming, like most natural resource industries, is heavily dependent on the weather. “There needs to be a balance,” said Paola. “Too much rain, no eggs. Too little rain, no foliage.” Farmers must control all aspects of the life cycle. If they allow too many eggs to develop into larvae they risk not having sufficient vegetation.

Unfortunately, the demand for butterfly pupae seasonally runs counter to the supply. Most butterfly exhibits, unlike our Tropical Butterfly House, only set up their gardens in the summer. Those same months, May to September, are Costa Rica’s rainy season! Too much rain and the butterflies cannot lay their eggs.

Exporting is also an exacting job at CRES. Every Monday and Tuesday, 10 employees pack all the pupae into shipment boxes for their clients. Each pupa is individually inspected for overall health and quality. A pupa is rejected if it contains viruses, potential parasitoids, lack of silk, or is too small.

Paola invites everyone to visit her beautiful country and tour the CRES facilities. There you can learn up close the benefits of butterfly breeding and conservation.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fresh Sheet – August 11, 2012

This week’s pupae shipment is from our friends at Costa Rica Entomological Supply (Suministros Entomológicos Costarricenses, S.A.). This butterfly exporter’s representative, Paola Vargas, recently visited Pacific Science Center. Her story is coming soon. Stay tuned!

Costa Rica
10 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
23 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
21 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
51 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
37 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
04 - Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
01 - Eurytides branchus )
26 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
08 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
37 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
13 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
15 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
28 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
41 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
59 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
24 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
40 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
08 - Siproeta epaphus (Rusty-tipped Page)
18 - Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)

Total = 504

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

Read more!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fresh Sheet – August 4, 2012

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.

El Salvador

20 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
10 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
08 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
12 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
10 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
25 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
25 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
08 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
15 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
15 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
50 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
15 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
20 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
10 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
25 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 303

Read more!